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Friday, 19 January 2018 06:13

Trump's Dumping of AIDS Council Is an Attack on People of Color and LGBTQ Communities

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Trumpy 0119wrp opt(Portrait: DonkeyHotey / Flickr)It's difficult to find any other reasons for President Donald Trump to fire, without explanation, the remaining members of the council advising him on the HIV/AIDS epidemic, other then he is indifferent to the health needs of minority communities, LGBTQ Americans, and that he is once again playing to his white conservative Christian evangelical base.

The Presidential Advisory Council on HIV/AIDS (PACHA),which was established in 1995, makes national HIV/AIDS strategy recommendations —setting out how health officials should respond to the epidemic.

David Kilmnick, the president of the LGBT Network, criticized the dismissals. "We have finally made significant progress in trying to end the epidemic once and for all and the irrational and immature moves by Trump will only set us back," he said in a statement.

Oddly enough … or maybe not so oddly enough … in September, Trump issued an executive order "continuing 32 advisory committees — including the council on H.I.V. and AIDS — whose operating authorities had been set to expire," The New York Times reported late last year.  

Dumping the council is not Trump's only indication that he's abandoning the fight against HIV/AIDS. Writing in The Washington Blade, Devin Barrington-Ward pointed out that "In the face of disturbing Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) projections that 1 in 2 Black gay men are projected to become HIV positive in their lifetimes, this president submitted a budget to Congress that would eliminate, among several things, the Minority AIDS Initiative and cuts funding for housing programs for people living with HIV — a key need in the fight to achieve increased viral suppression."

Trump's "budget slashes $150 million from CDC's HIV prevention programs and eliminates funding for training centers that educate healthcare professionals about the latest in HIV science and best practices for treatment, prevention, and care. Abroad, Trump's budget proposals paint an even bleaker picture where $800 million in proposed cuts would mean the deaths of four million sub-Saharan Africans over 15 years according to CBS News."

The Obama administration authorized a National H.I.V./AIDS Strategy, which President Obama said would make sure that "we're all pulling in the same direction toward a common goal."

According to The New York Times, "The strategy's basic premise is that everyone old enough to be sexually active should be tested for H.I.V. regularly, either as part of routine care or through special efforts. Everyone who tests positive should be put on triple-therapy treatment immediately and kept on it for life.

"It also recommends that anyone at high risk — gay men with many sexual partners, people who inject drugs, people whose regular partner is infected, and so on — should be offered pre-exposure prophylaxis, a daily antiretroviral pill that, if taken faithfully, reduces the chances of infection almost to zero."

In the age of Trump, everything is changing. Therefore, Barrington-Ward pointed out, "HIV organizations can no longer sit on the sidelines fearful of jeopardizing their 501(c)3 non-profit status by becoming politically involved. The lives of our patients, clients, and friends rely on our ability to speak boldly about how this president does not serve our best interest. Testing, linkage to care, treatment as prevention, PrEP, and all of the other services these organizations offer to our communities won't mean much if this president is successful in dismantling every program, agency, and pot of money we rely on to keep people healthy."

Trump's policy changes are reminiscent of the days when President Ronald Reagan failed to respond to the AIDS crisis in a timely manner and didn't publicly talk about AIDS until 1985.

"In less than one year in office, President Donald Trump has seemingly put the brakes on 30-plus years of HIV work; in truth, the devastating impact of his reckless decisions has only just begun to ripple across the surface," George Johnson wrote in The Root.